Miso is an umami-rich paste made by mixing beans (historically, soybeans), salt, and koji, a grain (usually rice) which has been inoculated and fermented with a mold, Aspergillus oryzae. The flavor and complexity of miso is unmatched even compared to other fermented dishes. It is at once savory, sweet, salty, and powerful.
White miso is lighter and sweeter than its more popular and traditional cousin, red miso (akamiso). That’s due to its shorter fermentation time (weeks instead of months or years), and higher ratio of koji (which is carbohydrate-rich and produces a sweeter finished product). Many modern commercial white misos are “cooked” rather than fermented, creating a finished product in a matter of days, not weeks.
The easiest way to make miso is to start with pre-made dried koji. Local Asian markets usually carry dried “firm granular” koji. You can also find online merchants like this one.
Learn more about making your own koji here.
The making of miso…
- 200-300 grams (about 1.5 cups) dried beans (chickpea, adzuki, or other legume)
- 567 grams (1 tub, about 3.5 cups) dried firm granular or 650 grams fresh koji
- fine sea salt
- filtered water
- 2 wide mouth canning jars, 1 quart/liter each
- wide mouth glass weight or small jar which fits inside mouth of vessel
- paper grocery bag, or tight-woven canvas or cloth bag (in which vessel can fit)
- shallow plastic food storage dish to hold jars
- masking or packing tape, or stapler
- Soak beans in 3 times the weight of filtered water overnight (up to 24 hours).
- Drain beans from soaking liquid.
- Bring ½ gallon (2L) of filtered water to a boil, then add beans and reduce heat to simmer. Cook until soft (cooking time varies by bean).
- Drain beans over a colander placed over a bowl or container to capture about a cup (250ml) of the bean cooking liquid. Add beans to a large mixing bowl.
- If using dried koji, dissolve salt into 550ml (18.5 fl ounces) of reserved cooking liquid. If there is no cooking liquid available, boil the equivalent amount of water and let cool down.
- If using fresh koji: dissolve salt into 310ml (10.5 fl. ounces) of reserved cooking liquid.
- Make a 4% salt brine with the cooking liquid you reserved (250g water x .04 = 10g salt). Dissolve salt in the cooking liquid. If using fresh koji, you may not need to add brine. Let brine mixture cool down to 100°F/38°C.
- Mash the beans, leaving about ¼ of them intact.
- Once bean mixture has cooled down down to 100°F/38°C, add the warm brine and then stir in koji. Mix Until well incorporated (5 minutes or so). The koji will absorb the cooking liquid.
- You should be able to make balls with the mixture. If it crumbles in your hand, add more of the cooking liquid.
- Pack the vessel with the mixture, ensuring there are no air bubbles in the jar.
- Once packed, tap jar on top of a towel or wooden cutting board several times to ensure that any air bubbles in the mixture come to the surface.
- Add a salt layer to the top of the mixture.
- Add a weight such as a glass jar, bottle or fermentation weight to the top of the mixture. This will weigh it down and allow the tamari to rise to the surface during fermentation.
- Carefully place the vessel into a paper or canvas/cloth bag. Staple and/or tape it shut so no insects can enter. Write the date on the bag.
- Store it in a warmish room (80°F/27°C) space for at least four, or up to 8 weeks.
- Carefully open the bag and remove the vessel.
- Remove the weight. Scoop off any funky mold from the top surface.
- Blend into a smooth paste using a blender or food processor.
- Pack contents into a glass jar. If using a metal lid, add a layer of parchment paper between the metal lid and the lip of the jar.
- Store in the refrigerator. Lasts several months or maybe years.
After miso has been fermented, I like to blend it into a smooth paste. It is easier to incorporate it into dishes as a paste than when it is chunky.
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